Students dazzle in ballroom competition

Posted April 19, 2014


The fourth annual “Dancing with the UMiami Stars,” entertained students, faculty and families with a twist on the award-winning show, “Dancing with the Stars.”

Put on by Miami Ballroom, a student organization that focuses on Latin and ballroom dance, “Dancing with the UMiami Stars” took campus “celebrities” out of their comfort zones and onto a stage, where they performed various dances with a partner, in order to win the Mirror Ball Trophy.

Alec Demitrus and Alex Kerbel performing their cha-cha/country infusion.

Alec Demitrus and Alex Kerbel performing their cha-cha/country infusion.

In its fourth installment, the event took place on the University of Miami campus in front of a loud and enthusiastic crowd.

Similar to the primetime TV show, prominent individuals on campus, such as the homecoming king, student government president, varsity cheerleaders, resident assistants and even professors, are paired with an experienced dancer, one from Miami Ballroom, and the pair is assigned a dance to practice and perform. The end result was an enthralling display of talent, practice and hard work.

Miami Ballroom is a student-led and student-taught organization that is open to anyone, regardless of previous dance experience. They offer lessons in the cha-cha, foxtrot, rumba, waltz, samba and tango.

Those who participate can simply attend practices if that is all they want to do, or they can join the performance team, the Mad Hot Miami Ballroom DanceSport team, that performs in different events on campus as well as at local competitions. Practices are held weekly on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. The first lesson is always free.

During “Dancing with the UMiami Stars,” each dance mentioned before was performed, in addition to the Paso doble and Viennese waltz. The couples also incorporated their own flair to the traditional dances.

The pair of Alec Demitrus and Alex Kerbel began the night with a performance the cha-cha infused with country western concepts. The two wore boots and plaid button down shirts, and danced to “Country Girl,” by Luke Bryan. Demitrus, who serves as the chief justice of the Interfraternity Council at UM and is a member of the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, was supported by members of his fraternity in the audience. One fan even created a poster playing off of the couple’s similar names that read, “We love Alecx!”

Bhumi Patel and Robert Renfro grace the crowd with a performance of raas and samba.

Bhumi Patel and Robert Renfro grace the crowd with a performance of raas and samba.

Guest performances, by veteran members of Miami Ballroom and others, were scattered in between the competitive portions of the show to give audience members a glimpse of larger, group interpretations of the various dances.

Similar to the ABC show, “Dancing with the UMiami Stars” featured three judges, each of whom is experienced in ballroom dancing, who gave commentary including praise and constructive criticism after each of the performances.

However, unlike the real show, the overall winner of this competition was based solely on audience cheers, although the judges do choose a Latin winner and Standard winner. Stars are chosen for the competition through nominations from the general University of Miami population and were announced the week of the show.

Members of Miami Ballroom found out their partners in December, came up with their routine over the class intersession, and had about two months after classes resumed to teach it to their partners.

One standout performance I found entertaining was that of Bhumi Patel and Robert Renfro, who performed the samba. Patel serves as the president of UM student government. Patel and Renfro fused part of Patel’s Indian heritage in the performance, incorporating raas moves into the show. Raas is a traditional dance from the Gujarat state of India that is performed barefoot with Dandiya sticks.

Dykisha Potter and Deandre Tate-Drummer perform an enchanting display of the sultry tango.

Dykisha Potter and Deandre Tate-Drummer perform an enchanting display of the sultry tango.

Throughout the show, the stars and their partners entertained the crowd during question-and-answer portions after their performances with the host for the night, junior Sam Koay, and talked about everything from prior dance experience, how they prepared for the performance to how well they got along with their partner.

Professor Jared Zemantauski, a professor of business law, got a laugh from me and the rest of the audience when he proclaimed, “I am at least 15 years older than everyone else over there!” pointing to the rest of the competitors, in an attempt to gain sympathy from the spectators. Zemantauski performed the Paso doble with his partner, Veronica Pechansky.

My personal favorite couple of the night was Deandre Tate-Drummer, the 2013 homecoming king, and Dykisha Potter, who performed a sensual, sultry interpretation of the tango to a mix of r&b songs. However, Tate-Drummer and Potter ended as the runners-up in the competition.

The opening act of Demitrus and Kerbel were crowned the winners by audience applause on Friday night, with Abby Rossiter and Jonathan Holman declared the Standard winner by the judges with their performance of the Viennese waltz, and Valentina Grekos and Benjamin Bass were given the title of Latin winner, with their interpretation of the samba.